Place Vendôme in Paris’s first arrondissement is one of the most storied spots in the city. For more than a century, it’s been the world’s hub of high jewellery—home to some of the loftiest and most desirable names. The first great contemporary jeweller to move into the square was Frédéric Boucheron, who set up shop in 1858 at 26 Place Vendôme. Boucheron, working from this address, came to adorn women in Paris in his creations, which espoused a spirit of freedom and audacity.
Marcel Proust even writes in his novel In Search of Lost Time that Boucheron’s creations were sought after by courtesans and
socialites alike. Indeed, Boucheron defined himself by an empathy for his clients—responding to as much simplicity or frivolity as they desired. More than a century later, the spirit of Boucheron is much the same as it was when it was founded in Paris. That was certainly the thought behind the revamped Boucheron boutique at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, which reopened in August. The design of the refreshed boutique takes its cues from Place Vendôme; its exterior featuring details such as a banded stone facade and intricate marble framing.
The inside of the boutique takes a modern approach to a luxury shopping experience: warm, bright and inviting, furnished almost like a tasteful living room to set one at ease.The design of the VIP room was inspired by Marina Bay and features wallpaper in a moiré pattern of blue and green that shift with the changing angles of light. Also on display are eight coral reef drawings by French environmental artist Jeremy Gobé.
But you don’t go to Boucheron just for the decor. In December, this boutique will showcase special sets of Question Mark necklaces, which are some of the house’s most iconic creations. First designed by Frédéric Boucheron in 1879, these sinuous high jewellery necklaces are a marriage of simplicity and opulence. They’re defined by a thin circular wrap around the neck that trails down the chest, blooming into its design around the décolletage. The original from 1879 was a naturalist design, with lotus flowers, bunches of grapes, poppy petals and a curling snake—almost as if it were a magically charmed branch that found its way onto a lady’s neck.
“The apparent simplicity of the choker and the off-centre motif represented a total break with the subtle harmony”, explains the house’s creative director Claire Choisne, who revived the Question Mark necklaces in 2020 and reintroduced them to the maison’s contemporary vernacular. These curved necklaces were wildly innovative at the time of their creation when symmetry and geometry ruled the day. But one feat, Choisne adds, helps explain its longevity: “The absence of any clasp, which allowed women, if they so wished, to put on their jewellery alone, without the assistance of another person.”
Choisne’s new interpretations of the Question Mark necklaces tap into one of the house’s specialities, which is to transform metal and stone—ostensibly hard materials—into stunningly lifelike impressions of nature, with all its curves and undulations. There’s the Lierre de Paris pieces which recreate sprigs of wild ivy, where diamond- or emerald-set leaves are fixed en tremblant (on coiled springs) so they sway and move when worn.
But the newest stars of the Question Mark line are the Plume de Paon, or peacock feather, designs. Choisne pulled techniques of setting, adjustment and precious metalworking from the late 19th century in order to achieve these designs, which carefully recreate the floaty, suspended qualities of a bird’s feathers. The stems and vanes of the feathers are articulated so that even though the necklace is large and statement-sized, it dances with a remarkable lightness.
From this year, the Plume de Paon (previously and still available in white gold and diamonds) novelties take things a step further by introducing even more lightness and the actual vibrant colours of a peacock. In addition to white gold, these pieces are crafted from titanium, which shave off just enough precious few grams of weight to make the necklace even more airy.
On the colour front, Boucheron has used an anodisation technique on the titanium to create beautifully graduated shades of blue, green, red and purple. Tsavorites, sapphires and diamonds trail the curve of the necklace, culminating in a large, oval tanzanite as the centrepiece.
As is the case with high jewellery, many of Boucheron’s most innovative technical feats are hidden in plain sight. There’s the maison’s signature openwork technique, which removes metal beneath the stones to allow more light to sparkle through the gems, as well as the fact that the anodisation treatment not only colours the titanium but coats and protects it as well. It’s the kind of thing that lends itself to more expressive, emotional design—harking back to the heritage and roots of the house, yet with unceasing modernity and inventiveness.
Boucheron, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, 10 Bayfront Avenue, 01-56, Bay Level, Singapore 018956